Disneyland Forward: Disney receives approval to expand theme parks in Southern California

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Anaheim City Council voted to approve Disneyland Forward, the largest expansion in almost 40 years.

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Disneyland Forward is a $1.9 billion expansion plan for Disney’s theme parks in Anaheim, California, KNBC reported. It will determine how the parks will be developed over the next 40 years.

“For nearly seven decades, Disneyland Resort has made a unique, irreplaceable impact on hundreds of millions of guests from around the world. How exciting to know our best days are still ahead – I can’t wait to show you what’s to come,” Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock said in a statement Tuesday night, according to CNN.

The Disneyland property consists of the original Disneyland park which opened in 1955, Disney’s California Adventure and the Downtown Disney shopping and entertainment district, both of which opened in 2001.

There are also three hotels owned by Disney: the Disneyland Hotel, the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and the newly-remodeled Pixar Place Hotel.

“This is long overdue – this is decades overdue. This, in my opinion, is the biggest thing Disney has done since they opened the gate in ‘55,” said Dennis Speigel, owner and founder of International Theme Park Services, a global consultant for theme park projects, according to CNN.

The proposal will create new experiences for visitors by bringing additional attractions, hotels, shops, restaurants and more on the west side of Disneyland Drive, The Associated Press and KTLA reported. The plan also has a $30 million investment for affordable housing and infrastructure including street, transportation and sewer improvements.

But not everyone agrees with the expansion. Some are upset that a local road that many use to get off the 5 Freeway will be closed, KTLA reported.

This proposal is the first time since the 1990s and the development of California Adventure, that Disney worked on making major changes to its Anaheim theme parks, the AP reported.

The current resort area is about 550 acres, CNN reported. That is 2% of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida which is 27,520 acres, or 43 square miles, according to a 2021 USA Today report.

Disneyland Park (not counting California Adventure) was the second-most visited theme park in the world in 2022, according to a report by the Themed Entertainment Association and AECOM said. About 16.9 million people visited that year.

The most visited park during the same time was the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World with 17.3 million guests, according to Statista.

Forbes reported that Disney accounted for seven of the top 10 most-visited theme parks worldwide in 2022. The other three were Universal parks.